Best of our wild blogs: 10 Feb 12

Berlayar Creek still has seagrasses!
from wild shores of singapore

Lunch of cattle egret 牛背鷺吞食青蛙
from PurpleMangrove

Thoughts on the NCCS Public Perception Survey on Climate Change in Singapore
from Low Carbon Singapore

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More Singaporeans care about climate change

Poll shows greater awareness, sense of responsibility in dealing with issue
Jessica Cheam Straits Times 10 Feb 12;

THE first local survey on climate change shows that most Singaporeans are concerned about the issue and believe in taking action to address it.

The findings, released yesterday by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), took civic and industry organisations by surprise and all agreed that the trend was encouraging.

The NCCS conducted a face-to-face poll of about 1,000 Singaporeans aged 15 and above from October to December last year on issues relating to climate change.

At the time, there was serious flooding in Thailand and Singapore also experienced heavy rainfall and floods - events which might have raised public awareness about environmental issues.

The survey showed that 86 per cent, or more than eight in 10 of the respondents, felt a sense of responsibility in dealing with climate change, and 74 per cent were concerned about it.

Some 63 per cent felt that Singapore would be severely affected, while 58 per cent said the country should take action to reduce the effects of climate change even if it involved significant cost.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond said the results surpassed his expectations and countered the popular notion that Singaporeans do not care about climate change.

Ms Olivia Choong, co-founder of environmental group Green Drinks Singapore, said she had expected the numbers to be lower, based on her own interaction with the public.

The positive findings were a stark contrast to a broader public perception survey on the environment done in 2005 by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources.

Then, only 53 per cent of those polled said they had even heard of climate change or global warming.

Asked why they were concerned about climate change, three-quarters of those surveyed last year agreed that the environment had to be preserved for future generations and that everyone shared this responsibility.

About half had a more practical reason for adopting eco-friendly practices: It would help lower the cost of living.

But despite the survey findings indicating a high level of support for efforts to deal with climate change, only half of those polled said they would like to receive more information.

Of this group, most wanted to know more about the impacts and effects, the science behind climate change, and what individuals can do.

Ms Choong said there could still be a gap between Singaporeans saying they care about climate change and actually doing something about it.

The NCCS yesterday also released key suggestions from its public consultation exercise for Singapore's National Climate Change Strategy 2012, conducted from September till last month.

The document, to be published in the middle of the year, will set out ways for Singapore to reduce its carbon emissions and prepare against the effects of climate change, and include suggestions from members of the public.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said in a statement yesterday that he was heartened by the strong support for climate change action.

'If we do our part, we can help protect the environment for future generations and ensure that Singapore is well prepared for climate change, and remains economically competitive and vibrant,' he said.

The NCCS findings can be viewed at

Suggestions for green living
Straits Times 10 Feb 12;

THE National Climate Change Secretariat's consultations with the public, interest groups and the industry produced suggestions like green vehicle incentives and promoting environmental education.

Some could be put into action soon.


Suggestion: Improve energy labels on household appliances by adding information to make costs and benefits clearer.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is reviewing the design of the labels and considering adding the annual estimated operating costs of the appliance.

Suggestion: Educate appliance retailers so they can recommend energy-efficient equipment.

The NEA has trained retailers in energy efficiency since 2009 and is reviewing its training scheme. It is considering undertaking an in-depth consumer behavioural study to figure out which efforts yield the largest changes.


Suggestion: Redesign train cabins to encourage better passenger behaviour.

In the 22 new trains for the North-South and East-West lines, there are three rows of overhead hand rails. The Land Transport Authority is monitoring how well-used they are by commuters.

It is also looking into installing extra overhead hand rails and removing vertical poles at train doors to discourage people from crowding round the doors.

Altering behaviour to make for a more pleasant commute may encourage more people not to drive and take public transport instead.

Suggestion: Adopt an emissions-based or fuel efficiency-based vehicle tax system.

This is already in the works. Buyers of highly fuel-efficient new cars stand to enjoy rebates of up to $15,000 while those who snap up more polluting models could pay up to $15,000 in extra taxes.


Suggestion: Expand the Green Mark scheme to include environmental impacts such as materials and air pollution.

The Building and Construction Authority is developing a Web-based carbon emissions calculator that takes into account a building's lifespan and major construction materials.


Suggestion: Develop a library of energy-efficiency practices as a reference for SMEs.

The United Nations Environment Programme has developed a guide for Asia, with case studies. At the same time, the Government is studying the development of a compendium of such practices specifically tailored for Singapore.


Suggestion: Incorporate climate change issues formally into the school curriculum.

Environmental themes like energy, weather and climate are already in the primary and upper secondary syllabi.

At the same time, the NEA and the Education Ministry are revising the lower secondary syllabus to include environmental issues from 2014 (for Secondary 1 students) and 2015 (for Secondary 2 students).

Singaporeans supportive of climate change actions
Channel NewsAsia 9 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans on the whole feel a sense of responsibility in playing their part to address climate change.

This is according to a survey commissioned by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) to gauge the levels of public awareness, attitudes and behaviours towards issues related to climate change in Singapore.

The survey sampled 1,010 Singaporean residents aged 15 and above and was conducted from October to December 2011.

86 per cent of the respondents said they felt a part in taking action on climate change.

Over 73 per cent of the respondents said they are concerned about climate change.

Respondents perceived climate change to be an urgent issue and about 63 per cent felt that Singapore would be severely affected by climate change.

One in two respondents expressed interest to receive more information about climate change.

7 in 10 respondents expressed interest in the science and impact of climate change and the practical measures that individuals could take to address climate change.

The respondents generally displayed a positive attitude towards tackling climate change. More than half agreed that individuals played an important part in addressing climate change in Singapore.

More than 70 per cent of the respondents are conscious about practising environmentally friendly habits in addressing climate change.

More than 70 per cent of the respondents believe it is everyone's responsibility to care for the environment.

Three in four respondents are motivated by the need to preserve the environment for future generations.

Most respondents also agreed that Singapore should take steps to reduce climate change. 58 per cent of the respondents even thought that such steps should be taken even if it involved significant cost.

The NCCS also released the government's response to various suggestions from public consultations that were conducted from September 2011 to January 2012.

One suggestion was to improve energy labels by including more information. The NEA is reviewing the design of the energy labels and is considering incorporating the annual estimated operating costs of the appliance into the energy labels if it is practicable.

On the suggestion to provide comparisons of the costs of using one appliance versus another, the NEA is looking into new tools that will enable consumers to estimate the life-cycle cost of the more energy-intensive household appliances.

As for the suggestion to adopt an emissions based or fuel efficiency based vehicle taxation system, the government is undertaking a comprehensive review on the measures to promote the adoption of green vehicles as part of overall efforts to promote sustainable development.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will take these suggestions into consideration in its review.

As for having more cycling facilities and more cycling towns, LTA will assist HDB to implement cycling facilities in Jurong, Punggol and East Coast.

To support the cycling population, LTA has planned for more bicycle racks to be provided at MRT stations. Where possible, LTA will facilitate intra-town travel by putting in dedicated cycling paths or where space is limited, widen the footpaths to allow sharing.

There was a suggestion to expand the current Green Mark scheme to bring it closer to international standards such as those used in the US and the UK.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is currently developing a web-based carbon calculator that will take into consideration the building lifespan and major construction materials used to estimate the total carbon emissions.

The public also suggested developing a depository or storing energy efficient practices as a reference for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and highlight how energy efficient practices can related to their bottom-line.

The government will study and consider how best to develop a compendium of energy efficient practices specifically tailored for Singapore that would be useful for Singapore SMEs.

There was a call to incorporate climate change issues formally into the school curriculum.

The government is working to incorporate aspects of climate change into the curriculum.

Topics such as climate change, global warming and ozone depletion are currently taught at various levels in subjects such as Science and Geography.

Students' awareness of climate change is enhanced in the informal curriculum through students' participation in community-initiated projects.

- CNA/ck

'Green' COE, eat less meat: Two of the 1,000 suggestions to deal with climate change
Esther Ng Today Online 10 Feb 12;

SINGAPORE - Create a new category of Certificate of Entitlement (COE) for green vehicles. Eat less meat. Make climate change issues part of the school curriculum.

These are some of the 1,000 suggestions the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) received from the public and industry players between September and last month, as part of its efforts to engage Singaporeans on climate change-related issues.

Releasing the suggestions yesterday, the NCCS said relevant government agencies will assess the ideas.

"Some were new ideas and they are being studied to see if they can be effectively adopted in Singapore. Others were workable solutions that have already been implemented, which need to be publicised more so that members of the public are aware of these efforts," said the NCCS.

Some suggestions were considered but found to be not suited for adoption at this stage, it said.

For instance, having COEs for green vehicles would "introduce more complexity" to the vehicle quota system, which was the case when the COE system first started, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

In its early years, the COE system had more categories than it has today. "The small quota of each category resulted in price anomalies and distortions within the categories," said the LTA.

As for eating less meat - because meat production contributes some 14 to 22 per cent of global emission - the NCCS pointed out that the carbon footprint of the food the Republic consumes is not straightforward. Production and transport processes, for instance, often take place outside Singapore and cannot be easily verified.

Meanwhile, the Government is working to incorporate aspects of climate change into the school curriculum, where topics such as global warming and ozone depletion are taught in geography and science.

Between October and December, the NCCS, for the first time, also surveyed 1,010 Singaporean residents, aged 15 and above, to gauge levels of public awareness and attitudes towards climate change-related issues here.

It found seven in 10 believed it was everyone's responsibility to care for the environment. Three in four saw the need to preserve the environment for future generations, and nearly six in 10 said steps to reduce climate change should be taken even if it involved significant cost.

Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the inter-ministerial committee on climate change Teo Chee Hean said he was "heartened" to see the "strong support" for climate change action. He pointed to the 86 per cent of respondents who felt they had a part to play in taking action on climate change.

However, Green Drinks Singapore founder Olivia Choong, 33, told Today that she was "surprised" by the findings. "Based on my interactions with people I talk to, whether taxi drivers or my banker friends, a lot more education needs to get out there. For instance, how many know that the rare earths that go into your smartphones and tablets are polluting the environment, or that smartphones are such power-hungry devices," said Ms Choong. "I'm not sure how much of it will translate into action," she added.

The list of suggestions and agency responses can be found on the NCCS website.

Climate change survey findings not reflected in day-to-day life here
Letter from Gaetane Prinselaar Today Online 13 Mar 12;

I read with interest the report "'Green' COE, eat less meat: Two of the 1,000 suggestions to deal with climate change" (Feb 10).

I was surprised that seven in 10 surveyed by the National Climate Change Secretariat believe that it is everyone's responsibility to care for the environment, a statistic not reflected in day-to-day life in Singapore.

Protecting the environment starts in the supermarkets. For instance, grapes and many other fruits are packed in plastic boxes which cannot be reused.

Or just count the number of people who bring recycled bags, probably the easiest way to gauge environmental responsibility.

Going by the survey, only three in 10 would ask for plastic bags. But not only do people not carry recycled bags, they leave with at least three or four plastic bags for seven items, as they do not want to mix them up.

If you ask for everything to be put into one bag, the cashier will double-bag it. Even China has banned supermarkets from giving out free plastic bags,

What about the recycling of batteries which contain pollutants? The only way is to bring them to the French School, which provides for such recycling. But Singaporeans throw their batteries in the bin.

I also live in a condominium where there is no recycling to speak of, and if you mention it, people do not want to hear about it.

Singapore has always been known as a clean city, one of the reasons for a lack of environmental responsibility, I believe, as people mix up cleanliness with environmental friendliness.

The fact that one does not see garbage does not mean Singapore is good at recycling.

It is time for the Singapore Government to make society part of the solution, and time is not a luxury. Surveys such as in the report may make Singaporeans feel good about themselves, when the reality is scary.

Climate change survey findings are a positive development
Letter from Yuen Sai Kuan Director, 3P Network Division, National Climate Change Secretariat Ong Seng Eng Director, Waste & Resource Management Department, National Environment Agency
Today Online 28 Mar 12;

WE REFER to Mr Gaetane Prinselaar's online letter "Climate change survey findings not reflected in day-to-day life here" (March 13).

We agree that public support and participation are key to the effectiveness of Singapore's efforts to boost recycling and climate change action.

In this regard, the findings from the National Climate Change Secretariat's public perception survey, on the high level of public awareness and interest in climate change-related issues here, is a positive development.

The public, private and people sectors need to work together to help translate this into eco-friendly actions by all stakeholders.

In Singapore, all incinerable waste, including used plastic bags, are sent to waste-to-energy plants for incineration, rather than to a landfill.

Notwithstanding, as part of its 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) efforts, the National Environment Agency encourages the public and community to reduce waste and reuse items that are reusable.

Retailers such as FairPrice, IKEA and the pharmacy at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital have also implemented schemes to encourage shoppers to bring their own bags or to discourage overuse of plastic bags.

More information on the 3R initiatives can be found at the NEA's website,

As part of its efforts to promote recycling, the NEA has required condominiums to provide recycling receptacles for residents.

As for household batteries, these can be disposed of without causing pollution, as the NEA has imposed a mandatory limit on mercury content of batteries sold here.

Mr Prinselaar can contact the NEA at 1800-225-5632 or if he needs help with recycling at his condo.

As part of the Government's outreach efforts, we will continue to advocate individual and corporate responsibility in environmental protection as well as action against climate change. We will work with the community to foster greater ownership in caring for the environment. We thank Mr Prinselaar for his feedback.

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Malayan tapir’s days numbered if no action taken

The Star 10 Feb 12;

I REFER to the report on the capture of the 200kg male tapir which somehow strayed into Kg Tun Abdul Razak, Bukit Katil in Malacca recently (The Star, Feb 2).

The tapir is also the animal on the logo of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS).

The Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus) is the largest of the four species of tapir in world, and the only one native to Asia. It is commonly referred to as “cipan” or “tenuk” by the Malay villagers.

The animal has very poor eyesight, making it rely on its excellent sense of smell and hearing to go about in their every day lives. At the same time the tapir is a vegetarian and forages for tender shoots and leaves of plants.

Although tapirs can bite and cause considerable harm when cornered, the threat is more from humans to the tapir due to loss of available habitats and fragmentation of the remaining forests.

Therefore, the presence of the male tapir in Bukit Katil was not accidental but due to the deforestation of its natural habitat and the probable presence of illegal hunters in its habitat.

The tapir is listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List and although it is now better protected by the new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) under Perhilitan, more efforts are needed from the state governments as well as the Forestry Department to ensure the preservation and conservation of the tapir’s forest habitats.

A few experts have predicted the extinction of the Malayan Tapir within 10 years if drastic action is not taken.

Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)

Captured tapir dies of foot injury
New Straits Times 10 Feb 12;

MALACCA: The tapir captured by the state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) at Kampung Tun Razak near here on Feb 1 has died. Malacca Zoo director Ahmad Azhar Mohammed said the 200kg adult male tapir died about half an hour after being transported to the zoo on the same day.

"We tried our best to treat its injuries, but the tapir had been weakened by all the earlier commotion. Its foot had been cut off, most likely by a wire snare. The injury appeared to be old, so the wound had festered and the tissue had become necrotic."

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High demand for sea turtles in China sends poachers toward Philippines

PRI 9 Feb 12;

Chinese fishers have so badly depleted the population of sea turtles, many of them endangered, off the nation's coasts that poachers are traveling far and wide to nab the sea reptiles. As China and the Philippines argue over stretches of the South China Sea, turtle poachers have already moved in.

China has a taste for turtle; turtle soup, turtle eggs, turtle bone ground up for use in Chinese medicine to promote longevity — for people, not for the turtles.

But as Chinese waters are increasingly depleted of sea turtles, Chinese poachers are traveling farther to find them. That includes hunting in waters that both China and the Philippines claim, like the waters around the Philippine island of Palawan.

The area is home to the endangered hawksbill sea turtle, a species so ancient it predates some dinosaurs. It can grow to be as large as one meter across, said Glenda Cadigal, of the Palawan Council on Sustainable Development.

“It lays 1,000 eggs,” she said, “and when it lays the eggs in one area, all the hatchlings that hatch from that area will go back to the same spot to lay its eggs at the time it is mature.”

But fewer turtles are making the journey of late, she said. She estimates that their population around Palawan is down about 20 percent from a decade ago, because of poaching, mostly by Chinese.

“They are poached not just for meat, but also for the value of their turtle shell, which is used for almost anything — for accessories, for guitar picks, bags, you name it and they will do it.” Cadigal said.

For some Chinese families, it’s a status symbol to have a stuffed marine turtle on display in their homes. Cadigal said that some Chinese boats caught near Palawan had tools onboard for stuffing turtles.

The Philippine navy, which patrols those waters, captured a Chinese boat of poachers in December. The boat had two big outboard motors, according to Giovanni Bacordo, deputy commander of the Philippine Armed Forces, Naval Forces West. He said it tried to ram the patrol boat, and then fled.

“So we gave chase for about 19 minutes until their outboard motors bogged down,” Bacordo said. “While we were giving chase, they were throwing away some equipment overboard, and maybe some dead sea turtles, we don’t know. But the following day, we recovered a fishing net, weighing about a ton, and three more dead sea turtles. So all in all, we recovered nine dead sea turtles, and three live ones.”

Six Chinese were arrested. The alleged poachers said they came from China’s Hainan province, more than 600 miles away. There’s a thriving black market there in sea turtles — a single sea turtle can sell for $3,000.

Chinese police in Hainan do periodically crack down on turtle poaching. Still, General Juancho Sabban, who heads the Philippine Armed Forces Western Command, suggested Chinese poachers aren’t operating entirely on their own. He thinks they must have a mother ship, perhaps a commercial boat — or perhaps not. He said some Chinese poachers have befriended Palawan locals, and have even offered to buy sea turtles from them, which makes him suspicious.

“By doing so, they are able to step on Philippine soil, befriending the populace, which to us in the military is a very common ploy in a more advanced planning. You have to immerse and know the local culture, as well as mingle with them and establish a support base,” Sabban said.

So far, there’s no proven link between the poachers and the Chinese military. But other Chinese fishing boats have been known to lay down markers in contested waters near here.

As for the accused poachers, the six caught in December await trial. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman has said China is watching, and wants the Philippines to treat them fairly. Glenda Cadigal of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development said, if anything, Chinese poachers in the past have been treated too fairly. They’ve been allowed to post bail and leave — or the Chinese embassy posts bail for them.

“I’m not into the bailing, because the lives of these wildlife species — you just pay a certain amount, and then you’re free? For me, it’s not fair,” Cadigal said. “They don’t have their voices, and we should be the ones protecting them.”

There’s now a group in Hainan called “SeaTurtles 911,” which is trying to rescue captured sea turtles, and spread awareness in China that hunting endangered turtles is bad for the environment.

But demand lingers, and the supply near Palawan seems too tempting for poachers to resist. Especially as the Chinese government insists these waters are rightfully China’s to exploit.

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'Pyramids' planted to revive Philippine corals

(AFP) Google News 9 Feb 12;

MANILA — Thousands of small "pyramids" are being planted off the Philippines' famous Boracay resort island in an effort to bring its nearly destroyed coral reefs back to life, an environment group said Thursday.

Over 300 of the structures were planted this week off Boracay's coast and eventually about 5,000 will be placed in the sea, according to Sangkalikasan (Nature) which is behind the effort.

"This is like putting garden soil for ideal growth on land. We are doing the same concept in the sea," Jose Rodriguez, vice chairman of the group, told AFP.

Boracay, famed for its stunning white sand beach and clear waters, is one of the Philippines' top tourist destinations with nearly one million people visiting the island last year.

But unsustainable development and the ever-growing number of tourists have caused severe environmental problems, including the destruction of the nearby reefs which often leave snorkellers looking at grey coral and few fish.

"My family has been coming to the island since the 1980s and we do see the drastic difference... (now) you only find the rubble of coral," Rodriguez said.

He said divers had been planting the pyramid-shaped structures, called "reefbuds", in about 7-9 metres (23-30 feet) of water up to 1,200 metres out to sea, and hoped to have all 5,000 in place in four months.

The reefbuds, which are about 70 centimetres (27 inches) tall, are not mere artificial reefs but will also serve as a medium for coral to grow back, according to Rodriguez.

Made of a combination of concrete, agricultural products and seawater, the hollow pyramids will initially serve as a breeding ground for algae and small fish.

But their porous walls are designed to allow coral to take root as well, so eventually they will give rise to an actual reef, said Sangkalikasan technical consultant Benjamin Tayag.

"You will first have soft corals, then hard corals but this will take years. Some hard corals grow only one centimetre a year," he said.

The areas where the reefbuds are being planted will be declared off-limits to jet skis, boats that drop anchor and other forms of recreation that led to the initial damage, according to Tayag.

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Indonesia: Planting trees can prevent whirlwinds

Antara 8 Feb 12;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Whirlwinds will not happen in areas that have lots of vegetation, according to an expert at the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

Waib Budi Lestari, a BMKG analyst, said here Wednesday whirlwinds always occur in flat areas where there was no vegetation.

"That is why, it is important to plant big trees or other kinds of vegetation in open spaces, especially in urban areas, if we want to remain free of whirlwinds," Warih said.

According to Warih, whirlwinds occur as a result of a process in which an increase in temperature creates a change of pressure in the air, especially in period between morning and late afternoon.

The increase in local temperature leads to the formation of rain clouds that fuel the growth of cumulonimbus clouds (Cb) which can result in a local whirlwind, Warih said.

Cb clouds are tall in shape like a spear with a crown resembling a cauliflower with a dark center.

"A Cb cloud then moves in a swirling way in a particular area, and this is what we call a whirlwind," Warih said.

A whirlwind was a rotating wind that can reach speeds of 60-90 kilometers per hour and last for 5-30 minutes.

The theory was based on a recent environmentalist from the University of Riau (UR) Tengku Amri Ariful who previously stated that in order to counteract the whirlwind`s brunt that hit most parts of the country including the province of Riau, is by conducting a massive reforestation.

"We all know that the current weather conditions everywhere are very difficult to predict. The rainy season should last until the end of February but in reality there has been little rain since mid-January 2012," said Ariful.(*)


Editor: Jafar M Sidik

Whirlwinds destroy many houses in Tasikmalaya
Antara 9 Jan 12;

Tasikmalaya (ANTARA News) - Strong whirlwinds destroyed many houses and cut down tall trees in the coastal areas of Cipatujah and Karangnunggal sub-districts, southern Tasikmalaya, West Java, Monday afternoon.

No fatalities had been reported so far, but many villagers panicked after watching trees fell on their homes and cut power lines.

Cidadap village chief Asep Supratman said the strong whirlwinds had destroyed many houses there.

He said two houses had been seriously destroyed by the strong winds and many trees uprooted.

"Local village security personnel are still inspecting and counting the destroyed houses, but nobody has been killed so far," he said.

In the meantime, Cipatujah sub-district chief Heri Sogiri said heavy downpours and strong winds struck the area from 10 to 11 am.

Heri said it had been established that many houses had been seriously destroyed and damaged including those in Cipanas, Ciandum, Cipatujah and Nagrog, and 11 houses in Cikawungading had minor damage.

"We have coordinated with local authorities for assistance including food and medical help of injured victims," Heri.(*)

Editor: Aditia Maruli

Whirlwind damages 20 houses in S Kalimantan
Antara 16 Jan 12;

Martapura, S Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - A whirlwind destroyed two houses and damaged 18 others in Cinta Puri village, Simpang Empat subdistrict, Banjar district, South Kalimantan, on early Sunday.

Those houses belonged to transmigrants, Head of Banjar district`s natural disaster mitigation unit, Sunarto,told ANTARA here Sunday.

"The whirlwind practically destroyed two houses and caused moderate and minor damages to 18 others," he said.

The whirlwind also damaged a house in the village but there were no fatalities in the natural disaster that occurred at about 01.00 AM local time on Sunday, he said.

A house owner named Trimo sustained a minor injury on his head. "He may have been hit by the debris of his damaged house when the whirlwind hit the village," Sunarto said.

He said his men had checked the condition of damaged houses to be then reported to the district government`s secretary, Nasrun Syah.

"The district government will coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aids to the victims," he said.

For villagers whose houses were damaged, he said they temporarily stayed in their relatives or neighbors`.

Over the past year, various parts of Indonesia have been undergoing an extreme weather phenomenon, which partly characterizes with heavy rains and whirlwinds.

As the consequences of the torrential rains and whirlwinds, various vulnerable parts of the country have experienced flash floods and landslides.

On December 29, 2010, a whirlwind also hit Kancilan village, Kembang subdistrict, Jepara district, Central Java, causing damage to 49 houses and six stores.

The whirlwind also damaged a school building and a church, but there were no reports of fatalities, Head of the Kembang subdistrict government`s social welfare office, Nuri Wahyudi, said.

On December 24, 2010, a whirlwind also hit Karangaji village in Kembang subdistrict, damaging 90 houses and a school building.

On December 26, 2010, a whirlwind also hit Srobyong and Karanggandong villages in Kembang subdistrict. A total of 114 houses in the two villages were damaged. (*)

Editor: Ruslan Burhani

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UN wraps up year of forests by highlighting their social and economic value

UN News Centre 9 Feb 12;

The United Nations today wrapped up its year-long campaign to raise awareness on the importance of forests and the people who depend on them with a series of events that spotlight their role and impact in socio-economic activities.

“Each of us, all seven billion people on Earth, has our physical, economic and spiritual health tied to forests,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat.

Throughout 2011, the UN organized a series of events and activities to highlight the value of forests and the actions that people can take to protect them and help contribute to their sustainable management.

At today’s closing ceremony for the year, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang stressed that the International Year of Forests “helped create a platform for dialogue and action.

“Through various actors – starting with local communities and moving to national, regional and international levels – we heard about effective ways to sustainably manage forests,” he said. “We hope that the year inspired governments to redouble their efforts as well.”

According to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), forests cover 31 per cent of the world’s total global land area, store more than one trillion tons of carbon and provide livelihoods for more than 1.6 billion people. However, deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

To mark the conclusion of the campaign, a special ceremony was held at UN Headquarters in New York today honouring people who have made special contributions to protect forests.

“We launched the UNFF Forest Heroes Awards for the International Year of Forests 2011 to identify and honour the countless individuals around the world who are dedicating their lives to nurturing forests in quiet and heroic ways. The programme aims to spotlight everyday people working to make positive changes for forests,” Ms. McAlpine told a press conference this afternoon, stressing that the response to the campaign had been very positive throughout all the regions that participated.

The winners of the awards come from various countries and backgrounds, but they all have made a significant impact on the preservation of forests.

Eleven-year-old girl scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, for example, won the award for the North American region for convincing the Girl Scout Organization to stop using cookies containing palm oil, which is linked to the destruction of rainforests.

An oyster fisherman, Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, received the award for the Asia region, for his implementation of sustainable farming practices in Miyagi, Japan, which played a critical role in maintaining clean water for his oyster beds.

Nzegha Mzeka, 77, will be honoured for his work which has helped 30 communities in Cameroon to protect their watersheds and conserve community forests through sustainable bee farming, education and reforestation.

For the European region, Anatoly Lebedev will be honoured for his work campaigning against illegal logging and destructive land practices in Russia that threatened indigenous communities and Siberian tigers.

Paulo Adario will receive the award for Latin America for his dedication to the protection of rainforests and forest-dependent communities in the Brazilian Amazon despite death threats and warring interest groups.

The jury also decided to add a special award in recognition of the deceased couple José Claudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espírito Santo, two activists murdered in Brazil while trying to protect their natural forests.

In addition to the presentation of Forest Heroes Awards, the ceremony will feature the winners of the 2011 Universal Postal Union (UPU) letter-writing contest, which drew entries from more than two million children and youth worldwide, and the announcement of the winners of the 2011 children’s art contest “Celebrate the Forests.”

There will also be film clips from the first-ever award-winning International Forest Film Festival, as well as the launch of the commemorative book Forests for People, with 75 articles from 35 countries.

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Rio+20 shows little sign of living up to original Earth summit

As Brazil prepares for the Rio+20 conference, there is little on the agenda to suggest any substantive action will be taken
Fred Pearce for Yale Environment 360 9 Feb 12;

It is easy to be cynical. Back in 1992, more than 100 world leaders, including George H.W. Bush, showed up for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It was a two-week mega-event that attracted huge attention, highlighted by the signing of two groundbreaking treaties on climate change and biodiversity and grand declarations about creating a future green and equitable world.

To put it mildly, the subsequent two decades have not lived up to the promises. George W. Bush effectively broke the climate treaty signed by his father, refusing to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. Emissions have soared, resource plundering has intensified, nature is still on the retreat, the world has become less equitable, and climate change has gone from distant prospect to frightening reality. While the population bomb may be being defused, the consumption bomb is primed to destroy us all.

The 1992 Rio summit's aspirations were left in the hands of a new body: the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). You have probably never heard of it. That's not a good sign, since the commission is now in charge of a new event, Rio+20, which is being billed as the next step in making the planet fit for future generations.

Rio+20 will be held in the Brazilian megacity this June. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the hearts of our leaders are not in this. It will last for just three days (June 20-22), rather than the 14 days of its predecessor. President Obama isn't going. The organizers are so scared nobody of note will turn up that, when they learned a few months ago that the event would clash with Britain and its former empire celebrating Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, they postponed the summit for a week.

It probably won't help much. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron refused to take the hint and show any signs that he might attend.

It has to be said that maybe Cameron is right. The "zero draft text" (don't you just love UN-speak?) issued by the UNCSD at the end of January suggests leaders will not be asked to sign on to anything of substance that was not in the original Rio declaration 20 years ago. There will be no new treaties — plenty of pious words, but no action plan.

It is fine and good to call for a "green economy," of course. But as the Green Economy Coalition — a grouping of NGOs, research institutes, UN organizations, businesses and trade unions — puts it, the text fails to address the fundamental issues involved in achieving it. "How are we going to kick-start the finance of a green and fair economy?," the coalition asked in a statement issued last month. "How can we ensure the poorest benefit?... How will a green economy improve the management of our natural world?"

Many Western politicians may feel that the current economic crisis means that 2012 is not a good time to address environmental issues. But the counterargument is that rapacious use of the world's natural resources over the past 20 years is one reason we got into this mess — causing sharp rises in commodity prices, for instance — and that "green economics" is the only long-term solution.

The truth is that we have gone backwards in the past two decades. The growing power of big developing nations like China and Brazil is often putting the international agenda on sustainability into reverse. Their governments see even current weak international guidelines on social and environmental standards in development projects, such as those developed by the World Bank, as undermining their national sovereignty and impeding economic development, rather than enhancing and sustaining them.

As a result, notes Andy White, coordinator of the Washington-based Rights and Resources Initiative, "there is nothing in the draft Rio+20 text that even mentions the rights of poor people to their land and their forests, even though we know they are far better custodians of nature than governments or private corporations."

Tinkering with business as usual is not enough. What is needed is new environmental governance for a crowded planet running on empty. It is time to reboot the Rio+20 summit agenda.

The world's environmental scientists are doing their best. They know best how the planet's life support systems have deteriorated since 1992 and the imminent dangers of runaway ecological and climatic disaster.

The International Council for Science (ICSU), which represents science bodies in 140 countries including the U.S. National Academy of Science, has organized a meeting in London in March to put pressure on the politicians to get real in Rio. The event, Planet Under Pressure, is one of the formal pre-Rio preparatory meetings, and it won't pull its punches.

The starting point for the scientists, says ICSU, is that "stark increases in natural disasters, food and water security problems, and biodiversity loss are just part of the evidence that humanity may be crossing planetary boundaries and approaching dangerous tipping points."

The March conference will hear, for instance, how researchers are developing early warning systems to spot those approaching tipping points. If such systems had been in place 40 years ago, they might have warned of the sudden emergence of the ozone hole over Antarctica. A decade ago, they might have predicted the collapse of Arctic sea ice. Next up could be the explosive growth of nitrogen-gorged "dead zones" in the oceans, or runaway emissions of methane from melting permafrost.

But the scientists don't just want to predict disasters. They want to stop them. To do that, they will insist that politicians have to be wrenched from their comfort zones. New priorities will require new institutions and new actors. Frank Biermann of the Free University Amsterdam, who heads ICSU's Earth System Governance Project, will tell the conference that incremental steps will not be sufficient and that "we have to reorient and restructure our national and international institutions."

We need, he says, a "constitutional moment... akin to the major transformative shift after 1945 that led to the establishment of the United Nations and other international organizations," like the World Bank. At the very least we need something like a UN environmental security council — with real muscle to call the big polluters, ecosystem trashers, and resource plunderers to account and to drag us back from those tipping points.

Climate change will affect most people's lives most dramatically through changes to the water cycle, with wet areas set to become wetter and dry areas drier. So, to take one specific recommendation, the scientists want Rio+20 to pledge a new system of global water governance that would be charged with protecting international rivers for downstream users and maintaining irreplaceable underground water reserves for future generations.

Thankfully — for they do not always do this — the scientists have embraced a democratic vision that wants the environment to work for people. The new environmental governance, ICSU says, needs to build greater resilience for humans to survive what is almost certainly looming, especially for the poorest, who need protection from climate change, food shortages, natural disasters, and failed states. That means developing crops that are more drought tolerant, helping poor communities prudently harvest forests and other ecosystems for their own day-to-day needs, and ensuring that communities are better protected against floods and other natural disasters.

Other independent researchers take a similar view about the need for Rio+20 to give teeth to its predecessor's vague promises about sustainable development. Alex Evans of New York University's Center on International Cooperation, a co-founder of, says Rio+20 needs to address three fundamental challenges. The first is the greening of growth, especially in emerging economies — "not because they have the greatest responsibility, but because they have the greatest opportunities to be laboratories of the future."

The second is creating greater equity in a world of growing tensions over access to energy, land, water, and the diminishing "carbon space" in the atmosphere if we are successfully to tackle climate change. The third is building resilience to inevitable shocks, whether from crossing thresholds in natural systems or from market dysfunction, as food and other resources grow scarce.

Evans agrees this is unlikely to be achieved by existing world leaders alone. Nor should it be. The world's seven billion people need to be asked what they think. That's us. Evans proposes harnessing the Web for an instant "global outsourcing process" during the 100 days leading up to the summit. Starting with the scientists' conference, those hundred days could rewrite the politicians' flaccid agenda, and pick peoples' delegates to attend on behalf of the real world.

The summit badly needs outside input. Right now, the official Rio+20 agenda and draft text show few signs that politicians are willing to go beyond the green-sounding rhetoric we heard from their predecessors in the same city two decades ago. It wasn't enough then. It certainly isn't enough now.

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